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Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

120        HISTORY OF WESTERN EDUCATION

had come with him from York. In the school he had as pupils
Charles and all the members of his family—wife, sons, daughters,
and other kinsfolk—as well as the young nobles whom Charles had
marked out for high position in State and Church. The studies
which occupied this mixed company, we gather from his letters
and from the textbooks he compiled, were much the same as those
of the school at York. " Oh, that I could for ever sport with thee
in Pierian verse," he writes to Charles on one occasion, " or scan
the lofty constellations of the sky, or be studying the fair forms of
numbers, or turn aside to the stupendous sayings of the ancient
fathers, or treat of the sacred precepts of our eternal salvation."*
The method of instruction varied. With the younger pupils, if
we may judge from a dialogue written for Charles's son Pepin at
the age of sixteen, it consisted in the memorizing of a series of
highly artificial questions and answers, prepared by Alcuin
himself. In the case of the older students, for whom the cateche-
tical method would have been tedious and unpalatable, discussion
in which Charles often took the lead played a large part. To all
questions, except sometimes in matters of science, Alcuin, with
mind steeped in the wisdom of predecessors like Bede and
Isodore, had his answer ready.

Alcuin also co-operated heartily with Charles in his plans for
the improvement of education throughout the kingdom. In a
weighty series of proclamations issued by the king during the
years in which Alcuin was by his side, his hand is plainly discern-
ible both in the scholarly statement of the king's views and in
matters of detail. The first of these proclamations was sent to
all the bishops and heads of monasteries some time about 787*
After commenting on the prevailing illiteracy, which showed
itself in the badly written letters that came from the monasteries,
the king went on to urge the clergy to devote themselves to study
for the sake of a right understanding of the Scriptures. " We
exhort you,*' he said, "not only not to neglect the study of
grammar, but to apply yourselves to it with perseverance and
humility, that you may the more easily and readily be able to
penetrate the mysteries of the Holy Scriptures. For since these
contain figures of speech it is impossible to doubt that the reader
will arrive far more readily at their spiritual meaning the better
he is instructed in learning. Therefore, let there be chosen for

* West, Alcuin, p. 46.